Symantec plans to launch a new way for parents to keep tabs on their children's net habits through its Norton brand.

The online safety feature will be available for public beta testing from July this year, with a scheduled release time for around Q1 2009 if successful.

The aim is to provide parents with the chance to remotely access their child's habits using a simple username and password keyed into a website - meaning parental controls could even be accessed through a smartphone.

House rules

The idea is to set 'house rules' with your child; a list of which is displayed in the agent downloaded to each computer governed.

If a child tries to look at a blocked website, this is flagged to the parent and the child gets a pop-up message - though the child can also request to view certain sites and the parent can grant access remotely.

The program will also monitor the social networking and instant messaging sites the child uses, allowing the parent to see what information is out there on their offspring, including their age and screen name.

The parent will also have the right to veto those who want to chat with their child online; blocking those they deem a risk.

Groomers denied

If the blocked user tries to speak to the child again, they are presented with a warning the session is being monitored.

"This is a very powerful statement for perhaps potential groomers," says Con Mallon, regional product marketing director for Symantec. "Psychologically, it sends a clear message.

"The program would allow a parent to implement a style in keeping with the rules of the household over internet use, there's no subterfuge about it.

"In a recent survey, we found there was a willingness from children to talk about their net activities with their parents, but parents are often not confident enough to engage.

"We hope this release could level the playing field."